Wildflowers of Rhode Island

by Barbara R. Money

RI Wildflower Photographs
Resources Links

Rhode Island boasts a wide range of habitats. Its rocky shores, sandy beaches, pine woods, hardwood forests, and freshwater wetlands each produce its own palette of native flora. These provide a wealth of diversity, available to enrich the experience of anyone willing to stop and observe the natural world.

Many wildflowers are quite showy; many more are less so. However, they are none the less beautiful, expressing the intricacy and balance of Nature's art in all its variety. My aim for this web page is for it to be more than just a collection of pretty pictures. I hope that the comments, links, and images will inspire a deeper love and respect for all of Nature's offspring. Only then will we be truly motivated to protect and preserve them.

There are a number of natural areas where wildflowers can be viewed as the seasons change from spring to fall. Parks, refuges, state management areas (in non-hunting season), and private properties offer a wide variety of species to study and photograph. It goes without saying, of course, "take only pictures, leave only footprints", as many habitats are extremely sensitive. And many wildflowers, due to human encroachment, are rare, if not endangered, and are protected by law. Many are federally protected, and every state has its own list of state-protected species. In Rhode Island, the "Christmas Greens" law protects several native plants in addition to those traditionally considered to be holiday decorations. Among these, in Rhode Island, are American Holly, Ilex opaca; Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida; Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia; and Sea Lavender, Limonium carolinianum. The best protection is land, set aside and protected from development, where these plants grow. These include the Nature Conservancy refuges, and local Audubon Society of RI refuges. One of the former, in Rhode Island, is Lime Rock Preserve, in Cumberland. It is noted for its limestone soil, and supports a number of uncommon species that do not grow in the acid soils of much of the rest of the state.

Another good way to preserve native wildflowers and learn about them in the process is to grow them yourself. The Rhode Island Wild Plant Society publishes "Cultivation Notes" on the culture of several native species. There are also several sites on the Web that offer information on growing wildflowers in other regions (see Resources, below). Never dig from the wild, of course, and be certain that the nursery you buy from has not done so. Some wildflowers, orchids in particular, require very specific soil conditions that are difficult to duplicate. Since they are often also slow to propagate, even if undisturbed, digging even a few plants in an attempt to increase their numbers usually does more harm than good.


Some excellent guidebooks are available at libraries and bookstores. The first two I use constantly. I find them easy to use with excellent illustrations.

A couple of good trail books that I use that cover some local natural areas are Walks and Rambles in Rhode Island, and More Walks and Rambles in Rhode Island, both by Ken Weber, and available from Backcountry Publications, P.O. Box 175, Woodstock, VT, 05091. They also publish the Walks and Rambles series for other New England states. Good regional guides for the East Coast include The Audubon Society Field Guide to the Natural Places series (Pantheon Books, a Division of Random House, Inc., NY).

For more information, if you visit or live in Rhode Island, you can contact:

The Rhode Island Wild Plant Society
P.O. Box 114
Peacedale, RI 02883-0114
Tel. (401)783-5895
They have information on guided walks, plant sales, and publications on individual species, with propagation and cultivation information of native plants.

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island
12 Sanderson Road
Smithfield, RI 02917
Tel. (401)949-5454
The Nature Conservancy
Rhode Island Field Office
45 South Angell Street
Providence, RI 02906
Tel. (401)331-7110

A good source of seeds and plants native to the Northeastern U.S. is:

The New England Wild Flower Society
180 Hemenway Road
Framingham, MA 01701
Tel. (508)877-7630
They own and operate The Garden in the Woods, a private preserve, which is a great place to see native and endangered species.

Another source of seeds of plants native to the US, particularly Missouri (though other areas as well) is Easy Wildflowers. They don't sell any invasives, and in fact have a section describing various invasive plants.

For more information on conservation issues, you can contact:

National Audubon Society
700 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
Tel. (212)832-3200
The Nature Conservancy
International Headquarters
1815 North Lynn Street
Arlington, VA 22209
Tel. (703)841-5300
Plant Conservation Project
Natural Resources Defense Council
1350 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005


Many state universities and native plant organizations also have information on wildflowers in other regions of North America. Here are some good ones:

If you are interested in more information on conservation and backyard gardening of plants native to your area, here are some links:

If you would like to see photographs of wildflowers in different regions, check out these links:

RI Wildflower Photographs

These are Rhode Island wildflowers that I photographed. All photographs are copyrighted. If you're interested in any of the images, please email me.


  1. "Wild Plants! Some Basic Information", The Rhode Island Wild Plant Society
  2. "Protecting Rhode Island's Plants", The Rhode Island Wild Plant Society
  3. "Sea Lavender, A Protected Plant in Rhode Island", The Rhode Island Wild Plant Society
  4. "Trailing Arbutus", by Carolyn Curtis, Cultivation Notes #8, The Rhode Island Wild Plant Society
  5. "Hepatica", by Carolyn Curtis, Cultivation Notes #10, The Rhode Island Wild Plant Society
  6. A Field Guide to Wildflowers, Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny; Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston
  7. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, Lawrence Newcomb; Little, Brown & Co., Boston
  8. Rhode Island Wildflowers, Irene H. Stuckey; University of Tennessee Press

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